Deliciously Grotesque Expressionism

What a lovely morning working on #Berkoff #Expressionism with an eager group of yr 12’s @Rednock_School. I do find it quite liberating to strip away the mask as a physical object from time to time to dive ‘naked’ into the #Berkovian-Aesthetic: the grotesque expressionism that our own faces are capable of; the intricate connection between face, breath, body and voice. Again, today, students surprised themselves with the range their voice could cover; the sounds that they could produce; the level of extremity their bodies could reach; the contortions possible with their own face muscles. The Berkoff mask is raw and corporeal. A play like Metamorphosis lends itself so brilliantly to grotesque expressionism and I find it such fun to apply techniques to and through this text to see where your imagination can take you. When we push ourselves to explore the outer limits of the expressive potential of our bodies, faces and voices, we start to reach the essence of what Steven Berkoff’s deliciously grotesque, expressionist theatre is all about. Berkoff explored the use of masks extensively in Commedia dell’Arte, Greek, Noh and Kabuki styles and it is with this understanding of the power and potential of the mask, that Berkoff advocates that we can strip away the mask as a prop because we each are born with a wonderfully versatile mask:

© www.stevenberkoff.com

© www.stevenberkoff.com

I believe that you don’t need anything more than just utter simplicity and that everything in my art must be created from the body onwards.  The body and the voice.  Everything else is an imposition and is an interference with the art of the actor: if it’s too many lights, too many props.  So the simplicity with me is that I return the art of the actor to the actor; not give it to the sets or give it to the props or give it to the costumes or give it to the lights.  But give it to the performer.

(Interview, Japanese Television; Salomé videotape, British Theatre Museum, cited by Craig Rosen, Ph.D. in his essay Creating the “Berkovian” Aesthetic – an analysis of Steven Berkoff’s Performance Style, Chapter V)

The rest of Rosen’s dissertation on Berkoff’s style is well worth further reading and is available, in full, along with many other useful essays and a host of information, on Iain Fisher’s extensive and informative website:  http://www.iainfisher.com/berkoff/berkoff-dissertation-aesthetic.html 

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